The Conversion of China

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When the Jesuits decided to travel to China, they had a clear mission: to expand the word of God and the church to anyone who would listen. This would be a challenge in many parts of the world, but especially in China. The Jesuits had to overcome a vast amount of cultural fear and ethnocentrism and xenophobia in order to convert the Chinese, but they overcame these obsticales by employing various techniques that proved to be effective.

One important factor that allowed for the conversion of the Chinese was strong leaders and figure heads of the church. Like every major moment in history, there are specific priests and representatives of the church that can be pinpointed as the founders of the cultural exchange of Europe and China. Francis Xavier is widely known as the founder of the mission. Although he never made it very far into the mainland of China, his brave actions inspired following priests to action. Another important figure in this exchange was Matteo Ricci. He was a brilliant man who arguably was most important founder of the mission in terms of conversion techniques. He used mnemonic devices for memory, and cartography to impress the Chinese, thus giving him a way to speak further on religion. Without leaders like Xavier and Ricci, there might not have been men smart enough to penetrate China’s xenophobia and have a solid conversion.

The Jesuits learned quickly about China’s fear of outsiders, and tried to incorporate their teachings into the Chinese culture. The biggest example of this is tying their teachings into Confucianism. For thousands of years, and up through the point that the Jesuits set up their mission, Confucius’s teaching were at the center of Chinese culture. Rather than fight that powerful force, th...

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...eir energy into one group, they had an overall greater effect. Another benefit of this trickle down conversion had to do with how the Jesuits related to the literi. The Jesuits, like the literi, were scholars. This meant that they related with each other well, but it also meant that they might not have related to the common as much. By talking to the literi, they knew that the common people would more readily listen to a fellow Chinese than a foreigner.

When the Jesuits landed in China, they had a clear mission. By using these techniques, they overcame the cultural obstacles in front of them in order to fulfill their duty. Ultimately, it was not necessarily their hard work and dedication that lead to a successful conversion, but the intellectual capacity to think up, and use techniques that were efficient and effective in their goal to convert the whole of China.
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